Sustaining Culture Across Distributed Teams – BW Businessworld

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Sustaining Culture Across Distributed Teams – BW Businessworld

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The concept of working “away from the office” or “from home” is not a recent development. I recall working in the People helpdesk early on in my career. I was handling people’s processes and practices from India for the UK and the US. At that time in 2003 we worked in virtual teams and also managed projects, improvements virtually.

As long as organizations had policies to allow it, employees could effectively perform their work from outside the confines of their work across multiple industries, especially knowledge workers. As technology improved rapidly, the internet gained traction and more people had access to faster Wi-Fi, remote working became a viable alternative. Global business travel shot up, companies had to invest in policies and technology, such as remote working and video conferencing to enhance their productivity as well as customer experience.

The current worldwide crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has, in fact, been the real test of the “digital-first” business practices we have been commending for the world of Industry 4.0 over the years. While resilience has probably been at the forefront of every company strategy in this disrupted hour, it is focussing on the right factors that are a reflection of the company culture that will ensure competitiveness.

For businesses to maintain their organizational culture we need to re-evaluate where and how they must be strong and/or flexible, involving the following changes at the workplace:

Heightened focus on Connection and communication

It is important that employers heighten their focus to communicating constantly to ensure cultural consistency while their teams continue to work remotely. Owing to the uncertainty around the lockdown, managers should communicate with their teams in a clear and concise manner. Most of them are grappling with this new change which has disrupted their workflow. It should be the organization’s communication mandate to assure employees that everything is in place and business continuity is the key priority right now.

Successful organizations focus on doubling down on training their talent in communication skills, which include internal communication as well as external, client-facing capabilities. Conducting effective meetings, interviews, and introductions, presentation skills, written communication skills (memos, project reports, client emails, etc.), as well as the skills to understand non-verbal communication (especially useful for during customer interaction)

Re-imagine performance frameworks

Formerly, businesses succeeded by capturing value from competitors, customers, and suppliers for their shareholders. In today’s agile workplace, however, successful businesses need to have more objective and fact-based performance frameworks that are not bound by annual appraisal but rely heavily on real-time feedback. The focus needs to be on building manager capability, infuse empathy in digital mediums of communication yet focus on result orientation. Leaders will not only lead people but will also lead work and will be recognized for the results generated.

Trust and empower

This is a difficult time for people across the globe and imbibing the now popular phrase ‘We are in this together’ not just in words but in action, is the need of the hour. It is important for employers to believe in their staff and understand that everyone is dealing with these difficult times in their own ways while getting the work done. Showing empathy, providing space to perform, and being objective yet clear on expectations will help build trust in delivery and will empower managers to be more comfortable with distributed work without active supervision. It is important to provide psychological safety, help in adjusting the dimensions of behavior change socially and intellectually.

Foster an Inclusive culture

As the culture evolves it will become more and more important than hierarchies will vanish, work and outcomes will lead to organizational success. It will present us with opportunities to include ideas, new voices as we learn to deal with empathy and will help us create a culture where ideas are encouraged, delivery is rewarded and people are respected. managers will need to be trained to be more self-aware of biases and eliminate them consciously as teams prepare to operate in the new normal.

Respect Work-Life Integration

Working from home has taught every organization that life in these times is very mixed up. Looking after family, house chores, children, and yet keeping up with meetings and outcomes without compartmentalizing time is getting tough. Hence we need to find a way of trusting and enabling work results and not focus heavily on availability at all times. Respecting screen time and time away from the screen will be a skill to develop in existing managers and training emerging leaders with new ways of working.

Merge fun with an engaging experience

When we talk about imposing the culture of a company remotely, what is often missing is the team get-togethers and office parties. While we work and collaborate virtually, it’s essential to have fun together virtually. Ensuring that employees are attuned to the company while also having a good time is extremely crucial. We have recently realised that every individual’s experience journey is different based on their lifecycle, career stage, roles, etc. Some relax with Zumba sessions but others love sessions around mindfulness. Different strokes for different folks. Companies have experimented with going back to basics with Ludo, Tambola, Virtual Bingo, etc. Overall if we can make work and fun come together virtually it will be a killer combination.

Leadership Communication

Remote working, distributed units of the workforce excel most when they have a shared vision. When given actionable strategic guidance and a mission, it is easier for remote teams to align on their organization’s visions. This vision of the new organization is collectively held and supported by the top leadership. Goal setting needs to be clear and simplified to understand how each one is contributing to the overall strategy of the company

As global macro-economic uncertainties increase, and as coworking spaces, hiring trends and employee expectations shift, companies all around the world are seen swiftly adopting the remote working trend. While challenges remain, remote working is fast becoming the new normal and it is becoming more and more essential for businesses today to reimpose the culture and ethics of the organization across verticals and employees. Time will be our biggest supporter and also the reason to test adapting capabilities if we want to thrive in a volatile environment.

via organizational change “”

July 27, 2020 at 09:24AM

Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman

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